Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Peyton Supports Report's Findings; COURTHOUSE the Grand Jury Found the Project Must Go on. SOONER, NOT LATER Peyton Doesn't Want to Leave It for His Successor

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Peyton Supports Report's Findings; COURTHOUSE the Grand Jury Found the Project Must Go on. SOONER, NOT LATER Peyton Doesn't Want to Leave It for His Successor

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton said Wednesday he understands the frustration and disappointment expressed in the grand jury report on its investigation of the Duval County courthouse project.

And he agrees with most of the recommendations. Peyton said he will ask the General Counsel's Office to go back over the documents and ensure that the fired construction manager, Skanska Dynamic Partners, wasn't overpaid.

Peyton and the grand jury placed a lot of the blame on the former project team, which includes Skanska and Cannon Design, the original architect.

Skanska fired back Wednesday, saying had it been allowed to move ahead, the city would have had its courthouse two years ago - and would have paid less than what it now expects to pay for a project still two years from completion.

The grand jury released the results of its seven-month investigation Wednesday morning, saying in its report that the city has wasted millions of dollars - though with no criminal wrongdoing - but must move ahead with the courthouse project. Peyton said he hopes to see it come to substantial completion before he leaves office in summer 2011.

"I do not want to leave this project to another mayor," he said. "It's too cruel."

In October 2004, the city couldn't agree on a guaranteed maximum price for the courthouse and decided to halt the project and fire Skanska, as well as other members of the project team. As a result, the grand jury's report said the city "lost" $9.9 million it had already paid to Skanska.

At the time, the project had ballooned to $294 million, compared to the $190 million originally approved by voters in 2000 as part of the Better Jacksonville Plan. Two years after Skanska was fired, the City Council approved a budget of $263.5 million. By 2007, Peyton was proposing a price tag of $395.3.

In April, the City Council set a final budget of $350 million.

There is a new project team in place with a plan that includes $223.6 million for design and construction of an 800,000-square-foot courthouse and another $15 million for furniture, fixtures, technology and other equipment.

The project also adds on $20. …

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